Europe’s new car and truck sales through the year’s first eight months fell 4.7% compared with year-ago, but still avoided an expected freefall given the region’s economic and political turmoil.

August marked the ninth straight month of decline, WardsAuto data shows, with deliveries of 1.146 million cars and trucks down 4.6% from prior-year and nearly flat with the year-to-date trend.

Yet, despite the uncertainty in Europe, especially for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy that are suffering from severe sovereign-debt problems, volume has remained relatively stable.

Among the 24 European countries tracked by WardsAuto, five saw vehicle sales grow in August, including Denmark, Norway, Russia, Slovakia and Switzerland.

On the downside, among the remaining 19 countries where deliveries fell, Finland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Slovenia suffered the poorest results, with losses ranging from 21% to 47%.

Early results for Europe in September show vehicle deliveries still are not spiraling into double-digit losses.

With about two-thirds of the industry reporting, combined September car and truck sales from the markets tracked by WardsAuto dipped 1.1% from prior-year. The downside is that only three countries so far have reported gains for the month: Russia, Turkey and the U.K.

Russia’s 9.0% increase was its 30th consecutive year-over-year gain. Vehicle sales through the first nine months jumped 14.5%, by far the best among the few success stories in the region.

Once September’s results are all collected, Russia’s year-to-date market penetration in the region should improve on the 16.6% it posted through August, which was well above year-ago’s 13.8%.

Russia continues to encroach on Germany’s standing as the No.1 vehicle market in Europe, topping that market in August for the first time since August 2008.

Russia’s share still lags Germany’s 19.2%, but unless something stanches growth in 2013, next year could see Russia overtake the leader on an annual basis for the first time.

Germany’s 4.8% sales decline in August was its second straight drop. After trending ahead of year-ago through the first seven months, the loss pushed the market’s 8-month result down 0.8%.

Other poor sales showings that could portend steeper downturns in Europe were posted in Czech Republic, Poland and Switzerland, all of which were ahead of prior-year through the first eight months.

However, both Czech Republic and Poland suffered three consecutive monthly declines through September, while Switzerland saw vehicles sales drop in four of the last five months.

hstoddard@wardsauto.com